Focus Group Meeting in ChipataUSAID’s Southern Africa Trade Hub is conducting gender research and training for Ammtech/COMACO, a strategic partnership grantee, to support the Trade Hub’s goal of integrating gender into the policies and procedures of grantee organizations. Semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, and questionnaires are all being employed to identify factors constraining women’s participation in grant activities and reveal gender dynamics in Zambia and the COMACO groundnut value chain.

COMACO works with 160,000 farmers and is committed to helping small scale farming communities through multipurpose cooperatives in Zambia to achieve food security and increased incomes through improved technologies, farming practices, and marketing. The Trade Hub award has enable COMACO to procure new equipment for its peanut production plant, and the Hub is also helping COMACO to achieve Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certification to open up export markets.

The research has demonstrated that gender relations in Zambia are strongly influenced by culture and determined by societal expectations. Women are burdened with multiple roles including food preparation, collection of water and firewood, caring for family members, child-bearing and -minding as well as farm work, and as a result suffer from time poverty. To ease the burden on women, COMACO has supplied households with fuel-efficient stoves and planted energy-efficient Glicidia Sepium trees for use as firewood and fertilizer. Productive resources such as land, property, and equipment are primarily controlled by men, but COMACO attempts to provide equal opportunities for men and women to access equipment, inputs, and training.

The research also reveals that cultural constraints and stereotypes continue to limit women’s participation in decision-making. Men are still the majority of leaders in the Executive Committee, but general understanding is growing of the importance of equal distribution of power in the decision-making structures of the cooperatives.

The results of the research will be used to develop targeted gender training to address key gender issues identified and to ensure grant activities are in line with Trade Hub standards for gender integration, inclusion, and mainstreaming.

Photo: Trade Hub Gender Advisor Magdeline Madibela with participants during a focus group discussion in Chipata

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